Sunday, September 11, 2005

What Keeps The Peace?

Travis Larkin
Reflection #2
What prevents us from bringing harm to our enemies?


The choices we make in our lives dictate the kind of human being we are. Everyday we will are confronted with choices that have both just and unjust options. The unjust choice is often the one that would most benefit one as an individual and therefore would be the simple choice for many because humans on the majority are self involved. The choices a person makes are kept in check by the consequences of our actions. Even though a person may wish to harm their enemies, they usually would never do such a thing because the consequences keep them in check. People are kept from harming their enemies by the code of conduct and consequences set up by the society they live in.
Plato brings up the allegory of the Ring of Gyges to support the fact that with no consequences people would be unjust and reckless. This is the myth of a poor farmer who finds a powerful ring which can turn him completely invisible just by wearing it. In other words he is free of any consequences because no one can see him and immediately he kills the King and commits adultery with the Queen. These are two of the most heinous crimes even today and this man committed them without remorse and ruled the kingdom. The simple fact is when he saw himself free of consequences or anyone knowing it was him then he acted for his own good as any man would. Then Socrates presents the hypothetical situation of there being two identical rings; one given to the unjust man and another to the just. The result would be the same the men would act without remorse or fear of consequence and murder, rape, and steal. Without the threat of retribution unjust acts become much easier to commit on ones conscience. A man’s reputation becomes marred by acts of injustice to others in his society according to Socrates, “he would become most wretched to those who were aware of it (the acts of injustice)” (360,d) In the case of the ring of Gyges the farmer was invisible so there was no consequences to his reputation of being a good man because no he performed his actions secretly with no one knowing his identity. One reason the internet today has come to be know, among other things, as a cesspool of moral decay involving online gambling, pornographic material, and illegal dealing is because of the status of secrecy that the internet gives people. When people know that their identity’s is secret it allows them to release inhibitions they would otherwise keep to themselves without worry about their otherwise pristine reputations being ruined. The internet, by removing the consequences of real life with a shield of confidentiality, lets people be unjust as much as they wish. It is in many ways a modern day equivalent to the Ring of Gyges, it makes people invisible through secrecy and people act in ways online that they would never in person with no fear of their actions or what may come of them.
My old school, Mount Mansfield Union High school, had an extraordinary amount of vandalism done to it over the years. To name a few incidents; tomato sauce thrown every where, doors spray painted pink and fences destroyed and worst of all two years back windows were smashed to the extent of $10,000 damage. These were angry youth doing harm to their enemy, in this case the high school. Most people are too afraid of the consequences of vandalism, for example expulsion or charges being pressed, and therefore do not bring harm to their enemy. In these cases the students were sure they couldn’t be caught because of lack of security and surveillance. To all appearances they were wearing there own rings of invisibility to the authority that would generally keep them in line. They feel the same effects that the farmer felt when he experienced the true power of the ring of Gyges. Recently in an effort to put an end to this rampant vandalism the school authorized and installed seven surveillance cameras. The reign of the vandals came to a direct end and no vandalism has since occurred. The fact is we as humans are prevented from bringing harm to our enemies by the societal codes of conduct that are established. Only in secret do we tend to do unjust acts and harm our enemies. This secrecy is represented by the Allegory of The Ring of Gyges and the secrecy means our reputations stay untarnished.
The fact is, humans are afraid of persecution. Everyone knows the codes of conduct that society has set up for the general population and it is expected of the people to follow them. The reason humans don’t openly hurt their enemies is fear of retribution and to protect there reputations which are precious in today’s world. People resort to secretive and destructive behavior which has no consequences until they are caught and in the words of Socrates himself “the man who is caught must be considered a poor chap.” (361, a)

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